Shanghai's best Korean restaurants

Your ultimate guide to the city's Korean offerings

From super simple bibimbap to hearty stews to top quality barbecue, Shanghai has a huge variety of Korean restaurants that'll satisfy your kimchi fix, whether it's for a in-and-out lunch or sit-down communal dinner. Here are five of the best Korean restaurants in town that will keep you happy when only Korean will do.

Ben Jia
Photograph: courtesy Ben Jia

Ben Jia

Slap bang in the heart of the action of Shanghai’s very own Koreatown (in Minhang district), the original branch of Ben Jia is the reigning queen of barbecue restaurants for both Korean expatriates and hungry kimchi lovers making the pilgrimage from downtown Shanghai. Ben Jia lets the banchan rain, with a huge variety of appetisers ranging from pungent kimchi to garlicky broccoli, and provides each table with a vast selection of fresh veggies to counterbalance the eventual protein-induced meat sweats. While the meat selection may not be the cheapest in town, Ben Jia’s promise of quality over quantity is enough to have you piling up the grill in no time. Decadent strips of pork belly and juicy marinated beef galbi are showstoppers for the carnivores at the table, while one of the city’s best sweet japchae glass noodles, vegetable pancakes and mixed mushroom platter will keep companion vegetarians suitably satisfied. If you can’t manage the trek out to the original location, Ben Jia has outposts downtown too, with its Changning location being an excellent runner up.

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1339 Wuzhong Lu
Chuncheon Chicken

Chuncheon Chicken

With whole urban districts full of eateries devoted to communal dishes, the Koreans are contenders for the mastery of social eats. Harnessing this proud Korean tradition with a dash of blaring K-pop and industrial-esque concrete interior decor, Chuncheon Chicken jumps on a bandwagon that seems to show no signs of slowing. It offers a huge menu of communal dishes, ranging from huge hotplates of scorching buldak smothered in melted cheese (98RMB), crisp and satisfying fried chicken – both the regular (45RMB) and sticky sweet-sour (60RMB) incarnation – and a particularly potent ginseng and abalone chicken soup (from 80RMB), one of the Korean capital’s hallmark dishes. This is the kind of joint where you come with an appetite and leave with a dabao, after a few too many beers and far too much chicken. Head to the flagship Kangding Lu location for an alfresco terrace dining and a relaxed atmosphere or cram into the Xiangyang Bei Lu branch to satisfy your fried chicken craving when you’re downtown.

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100 Xiangyang Bei Lu
Annion Kitchen

Annion Kitchen

Tucked away in Jiashan Market’s tangle of quiet leafy lanes, Annion Kitchen is worlds away from the frenetic atmosphere of the typical Korean restaurant. Rough around the edges with a hodgepodge-esque, hobbled together kind of aesthetic, Annion Kitchen presents itself as honest as the home-style dishes on its menu. Inspired by dishes served up by the owners’ grandmother, the restaurant serves up a variety of simple, kimchi-heavy appetizers – the fresh and sour tofu salad (38RMB) and Four Kinds of Kimchi (45RMB) being stand out bites. While Annion’s soups may not be much to write home about, the curiously named Camp Stew – or budae jjigae – is a tasty rendition of spam-friendly American-Korean wartime fusion. Please your protein cravings with a solid beef bulgogi (85RMB) and spicy seafood ddeokbokki rice cakes (95RMB), and pack it all in with a tasty kimchi fried rice (60RMB). While Annion Kitchen doesn’t score so highly in its value for money, it offers authentic interpretations of Korean classics right in the heart of the Former French Concession.

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550 Shaanxi Nan Lu
Sura

Sura

If it’s cheap, cheerful and authentic Korean fare you’re looking for, Sura is a one-stop-shop for a quick and easy meal. As literal as a metaphorical hole in the wall permits, Sura’s teeny-tiny dimensions truly evoke Seoul-ite charm with that classic blink-and-you’ll-miss it vibe that has you turning round in circles in the Korean capital’s backstreets. Owned by an elderly Korean couple with a meticulous eye for that personal touch, Sura offers a stripped down menu of home-style classics that include super fresh egg-topped beef or vegetable bibimbap prepped on a small stove as you wait, classic canned tuna gimbap, umami-heavy beef soybean stew, pork and kimchi noodles and a simple yet wholesome seaweed soup. With prices hovering around the 35RMB mark, Sura’s staples keep the small ten-seater packed most lunch and dinner times, so pitch up early or wait out your hunger and take a seat after the meal-time rush.

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129 Jiaozhou Lu
Hanguo Chufang

Hanguo Chufang

Doing battle with Sura at the other end of the block on Jiaozhou Lu, Chufang Hanguo Express offers a trendy three-storey space that looks as if it's been beamed in straight from Itaewon and a huge menu of Korean classics at wallet-friendly Chinese prices. Settle down to generous (and bottomless if you have the sweet ayi on the second floor as your server) portions of sides, like kimchi and the addictively savoury bean kongjaban while you flick through Chufang’s extensive menu. Solid options include the beef bulgogi bibimbap served with fresh veg, beansprouts and kimchi in a traditional dolsot hot plate (45RMB), super savoury silken tofu and kimchi stew (45RMB), satisfyingly chewy japchae glass noodles (55RMB) and a solid contender for Shanghai’s best seafood pancake (55RMB). If sitting-in isn’t on the agenda, waimai a super simple and delicious bibimbap set from ele.me (38 RMB) – it’ll come prepared with all the fixings, a couple of banchan and either a nourishing soup or sugar-packed soda depending on the whim of the waitstaff.

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210 Jiaozhou Lu

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